Family Food Bytes
AG-TECH ENTREPRENEUR IS BACK WITH A NEW STARTUP (Crain’s Chicago Business) – Corbett Kull helped bring Big Data to the business of farming with his first startup, 640 Labs, which he sold to Climate Corp. He has now built an online marketplace to match farmers looking for more land to work with owners of farmland who don’t want to farm.
‘UGLY PRODUCE’ TREND MAY HAVE LIMITS (Associated Press) – Walmart and Whole Foods in recent years tried selling some blemished fruits and vegetables at a discount, produce they said might otherwise be trashed because it’s not quite the right size, shape or color. The two chains ended their test, suggesting dented apples and undersized potatoes may not be all that appealing. Some stores, like Hy-Vee and home delivery startups haven’t given up on the idea of selling less-than-perfect produce to reduce food waste and are seeing some success.
YOUR AVOCADOS AND OLIVES ARE PRICIER BECAUSE FAT IS IN FASHION (The Wall Street Journal) – Farmers around the globe are struggling to keep up with an increasing global appetite for fats that are perceived as healthy, leading to long-term disruptions in food prices. From Mexico to Norway and New Zealand, avocado growers, fish farmers and butter producers are struggling to increase output so they can meet the surging demand, but environmental constraints and other challenges are limiting how much they can churn out.
HIRING AT VOLKENING HERITAGE FARM - The Schaumburg Park District is hiring an operations supervisor (full-time) and farm program activity leaders (part-time) for the Spring Valley’s Volkening Heritage Farm living history museum. To apply online, go to www.parkfun.com.
‘SPAGHETTI MEAT’ (Wall Street Journal) – Chicken companies which spent decades breeding birds to grow quickly are now spending millions of dollars to deal with the consequences of such birds, including leathery breast fillets and squishy fillets known as ‘spaghetti meat.’ While the abnormalities don’t pose a food safety risk, they are less appealing to consumers.
SUSHI WITH BEEF? MEAT INDUSTRY MAKES CASE FOR “BEEFSHI” (Associations Now) - The Beef Checkoff program and the North American Meat Institute, seeing a growing trend toward sushi, hired a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef to help create beef-centered takes on a meal that more closely associates with seafood. “Beefshi”, a fusion food concept that combines more traditional sushi ingredients with different kinds of prepared beef such as pastrami, corned beef, bologna, all-beef hot dogs, and beef jerky.
FFA ESSAY CONTEST OPEN (FarmWeek) Culvers’ restaurants have launched its 5th FFA Essay contest with entries due April 8. Three essay winners will be chosen to receive $7500, $5000, or $2500 for their FFA chapters. Essays should be 1,000 words or less and members may respond to this prompt: The average age of farmers is 58. Why is it important for more young people to get involved with agriculture? Why should they be excited to join the agricultural industry? Entries may be submitted to www.culvers.com/essaycontest
PRITZKER SELECTS CALLAHAN TO LEAD IDNR (FarmWeek) - Colleen Callahan, a familiar name to farmers across Illinois, will bring her leadership and communication skills to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources after being named director by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Callahan has a degree in agricultural communications, has worked as a farm broadcaster for television and radio, and has served in various agricultural positions within state and federal government. She served as the Master of Ceremonies for the first annual Cook County Farm Bureau Foundation’s Farming for our Future Gala two years ago.
GE SALMON NOW AVAILABLE (GMO Answers) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has removed barriers to the sale of genetically engineered salmon in the United States for the first time since the fish was cleared as the first biotech animal for human consumption in 2015. Research on the salmon, which started in the mid-1980s, has led to a fast-growing fish which grows to market size in half the time as a conventional Atlantic salmon (16 to 18 months). The salmon contains a growth gene from the fast-growing Pacific Chinook salmon which allows the fish to grow year-round instead of seasonally like wild or farmed salmon. With salmon being the 2nd most consumed seafood in the US and a decline in the wild Atlantic salmon populations, the GE salmon may provide a sustainable alternative. Although the FDA has approved the salmon, it may take several years before it hits store shelves.
GAP GROWS IN FARMLAND MARKET; PROPERTY TAXES ADD PRESSURE (FarmWeekNow) - Farmland values generally remain solid despite tightening farm margins. Farm real estate averaged $6,430 per acre in the Corn Belt last year and actually increased 1.4 percent in Illinois, according to the USDA. Murray Wise, of Murray Wise and Associates in Champaign, believes strong demand for limited amounts of high-quality farmland offset declining values for lower quality ground.
Lower crop values are a key factor behind tightening farm margins. Higher property taxes play a major role as well, while rising interest rates are also a concern. Illinois property taxes jumped from an average of $24 per acre in 2008 to $53 per acre in 2016, increasing at a rate of about 9.6 percent per year, according to the University of Illinois farmdoc Daily. In some areas, property taxes increased as high as $60 to $70 per acre in recent years. Overall, farmers still account for about 70 percent of farmland purchases despite worsening income issues.